Web Messaging Platforms After The FCC’s Declaratory Ruling

While various petitioners are challenging the FCC’s July 10, 2015 Declaratory Ruling before the D.C. Circuit, a recent district court decision is one of the first to address its impact on a pending TCPA claim. See Luna v. Shac, LLC, No. 14-cv-00607-HRL, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109841 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 19, 2015). The decision confirms that even after the Declaratory Ruling, if the platform requires human intervention to send text messages, it will not be deemed an automated telephone dialing system (“ATDS”).

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Courts Confirm Importance Of Human Intervention

A critical issue under the TCPA is the extent to which the statute applies to mobile text messaging platforms. As evident from its title, Congress intended that the TCPA would protect consumers from unsolicited telephone calls, as placed through automated telephone dialing systems (“ATDS”). As early as 2003, the FCC decided that text messages are “calls” under the TCPA, but has not yet addressed the corollary issue of when and whether a text messaging platform might be considered an ATDS.

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Ninth Circuit Addresses TCPA Text Message Claims

In Gomez v. Campbell-Ewald Co., No. 13-55486, 2014 WL 4654478 (9th Cir. Sept. 19, 2014), a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed several recurring issues in TCPA litigation, including: the efficacy of Rule 68 offers to moot putative class actions; potential First Amendment defenses; and vicarious liability.

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Ninth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment, Taco Bell Not Vicariously Liable for Third-Party Text Message

In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s ruling that Taco Bell was not vicariously liable for text messages sent by a third party advertising a Taco Bell product. See Thomas v. Taco Bell Corp., No. 12-56458, 2014 WL 2959160 (9th Cir. July 2, 2014). The ruling is one of the first appellate decisions to consider vicarious liability for section 227(b) violations in the wake of an FCC declaratory ruling that had endorsed and indeed provided guidelines on that topic. See In re DISH Network, LLC, 28 F.C.C. Rcd. 6574 (2013). Unfortunately for companies grappling with these issues, the unpublished Ninth Circuit decision does not provide any additional clarity.

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California Federal Court Upholds Pre-Certification Discovery of Defendant’s “Outbound Dial List” in TCPA Class Action

A California federal district court recently ordered a debt collector to produce an “outbound dial list” that identified all telephone numbers it had called using an ATDS over a one-year period. See Webb v. Healthcare Revenue Recovery Grp. LLC, No. C. 13-00737 RS, 2014 WL 325132 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2014). The ruling highlights the potential conflict between the discovery objectives of putative class counsel on the one hand, and the privacy rights of putative class members on the other.

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